The most recent Game of Thrones episode brought back several long-lost characters who haven’t surfaced in many seasons: Red Wedding groom Edmure Tully, Red Wedding orchestrator Walder Frey, and missing Stark uncle, Benjen. The latter is by far the most intriguing, because he’s been mysteriously missing since the very first season, and because his presence confirmed yet another fan theory — that he is indeed the enigmatic book character Coldhands. But as cool as his reveal was, for now it’s just that: An exciting “ta-dah!” moment. “Blood of my Blood” didn’t yet dive into what his return and undead mystical state means for the narrative. But we will.
Jon Snow’s Mother
The most obvious connection he has to the larger narrative is to drive the Exposition Train. It’s a locomotive that was previously helmed by Bran Stark and the Three-eyed Raven, as the show used its plot-convenient visions to shed light on the recent past. Now that the Three-eyed Raven is dead, we need someone to help steer Bran toward that Tower of Joy vision again and see it through this time.
If it confirms the long-running fan theory that Benjen and Ned’s sister Lyanna Stark is Jon Snow’s mother, we also need someone to tell Jon. As Benjen and Jon were close — recall that he was used as bait to lure Jon outside to his death at the end of Season 5 — and both men are now wandering around the Northern countryside, Benjen is the most likely candidate for Exposition Imparting.
Let’s hope that if and when they cross paths, Jon won’t say, “Yeah right, Benjen is here. I’m not falling for that again!”
The Children’s Involvement
As Benjen explains to Bran, his undead state is the result of The Children’s interference. “A White Walker stabbed me in the gut with a sword of ice and left me there to die,” he says. “The Children found me and stopped the Walkers’ magic from taking hold.” Thanks to last episode’s revelation that The Children created the White Walkers, the Children keep coming up. They’re kind of like Varys — they have their hands in all corners of the narrative, unseen. It’s safe to say their role in the ultimate story is not going to be a small one.
Still, it would be baffling for them to save a random human man, so their preservation of Benjen Stark means that he has an important role to play in the wars to come.
Jon came back from the dead. Benjen came back from the dead. At this point, Game of Thrones is flooded with undead Starks. The next obvious candidate is the long-anticipated book character Lady Stoneheart, aka undead Catelyn Stark. Though she didn’t appear after The Red Wedding, and the show has given no indication of including her so far, Benjen Coldhands’s entrance could signify that Lady Stoneheart’s absence will be no more.
As for whether Benjen’s return means we could see other long-missing characters, like The Hound or Gendry, we’ll have to wait and anticipate Cleganebowl with baited breath. But let’s be honest, it probably doesn’t mean we’re anywhere near a Gendry return. Because “fuck that guy,” said the showrunners, apparently.